At the end of this month, British government departments will stop using the word "Brexit", on the grounds that Brexit is over and done with from January 31st. It won't be, of course -- the negotiations and patches will take years, the consequences last for decades -- but we're in Ingsoc territory now. The Ministry of Truth doesn't even want talk of "negotiations" (ignorance is strength) as that would make the British people realize that the hard part is only just beginning.
As I write this, in a deliciously ironic touch given that the Leave campaign repeatedly complained about the "unelected" officials of the EU, the prime minister has been on holiday in the Caribbean for 40% of his total time in office and his special adviser Dominic Cummings (unelected boss of government strategy) is looking to hire uneducated cranks to bypass the UK civil service and carry on Cummings's favourite pastime of playing with fire without knowing that fire is hot. It's a strategy that hasn't been tried since Stalin, so what could possibly go wrong?
Jamie and I are wondering whether we now need to prove our patriotism by issuing a new edition of our last gamebook: Can You Do The Thing Previously Known As Brexit? But maybe that tumbril has already trundled. I do wish we had indulged some of our original plans for the book. In the first draft it opened on a crashing plane. You woke up in the cockpit but had no recollection of how to fly the thing. That established a framing narrative to which you'd return throughout the book, with increasingly surreal (or possibly increasingly lucid) episodes such as:
- Remainers hiding in priest holes in Elizabethan times.
- The mutineers on Pitcairn island having “done away with the experts”.
- Conversations with the Number 10 cat.
- Facts trying to escape across the English Channel in rubber dinghies.
"Too wacky," Jamie said, and at the time I agreed. That was before reality, out of its head on drugs, came charging up from behind, shoved reason into a ditch, and ran off laughing. Now even Armando Iannucci has given up on satire ("politics feels fictional enough") and for all I know Chris Morris might very well be thinking of applying to become one of Cummings's galley slaves. (Spoiler: he'll be disqualified on the grounds of having a university degree and being sane. Too bad, as if he worked in Downing Street he's just the chap to pull off a metaphorical Calò.)
If you'd like to wind back to an earlier era when Brexit was still about how to negotiate a rational relationship with the European Union that would reflect the electorate's narrow preference for withdrawal, you can try your hand at that in the book. Future generations will marvel that logic and facts ever played any part in the process, given the political maelstrom that actually ensued. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to send my CV off to Mekonta.
Also available from Amazon in Italy, Germany, France, Australia, Spain, Netherlands and anywhere that books aren't burned. And talking of the Furies vs Athena:
ADDENDUM (January 31): Professor Chris Grey has written a summary of how we got to this point. Only of historical interest now, at least until Tim Harford turns it all into one of his Cautionary Tales in 10 or 15 years' time...